KOTA KINABALU, Nov 4 — Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob tonight denied consuming any of the turtle eggs served during a dinner in Sandakan in August, after he was criticised by conservationists over a photograph taken during the function.
The rural and regional development minister told Malay Mail Online that his “high cholesterol level” and the medication he takes to treat it do not permit him to consume such products.
“Of course not. I wasn’t sure there were turtle eggs there because no one ate it, maybe because I didn’t eat any,” he said when asked by Malay Mail Online whether he had consumed any at the event.
“I haven’t eaten any turtle eggs in a long time. The doctor doesn’t allow me to because of my high cholesterol. Turtle eggs are among the things I am prohibited from eating, including cow brains,” he said, adding that he only ate fish.
A photograph that has been circulating on social media shows Ismail Sabri as well as Beluran Umno division chief Datuk James Ratib and Sandakan municipal council deputy president Mohd Hamsan Awang Supain among five other men seated at a restaurant with turtle eggs and lobsters placed on the “Lazy Susan” in front of them.
The photo, allegedly taken during the Umno Beluran division meeting dinner in August at Restoran Indah Keranamu, was first posted by Internet user “Deadturtles Sabah” on the Walai Penyu Resort Libaran Facebook page.
Following the photo, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director William Baya said his officers will be questioning the operators of the seafood restaurant as well as the event organisers to find out how turtle eggs made it on the restaurant menu.
The photo, which was later reposted on the page of conservation group Danau Girang Field Centre, has been shared more than 1,400 times in the six hours since it was posted and has attracted heavy criticism from conservation groups and the public.
Turtles and its products are a totally protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment and Section 41 of enactment states it is an offence to possess these animals or its products.
Offenders can be fined RM50,000 or jailed five years, or both, upon conviction.